The largest potholes I have ever seen were in Rochester, New York, in 1975. My ex and I were driving into the city that was to be our new home. It was dark. Potholes loomed like grand canyons, threatening to swallow our VW Beetle. I wanted to turn around and drive back to Seattle.
I learned to love the city and avoid the potholes, but I might have made peace with (or objected to) them sooner had I seen anything like the exquisite, tiny gardens Steve Wheen has created. Others have created pothole gardens, including a California College of the Arts class who may have come up with the idea as a response to “road-centricity”, and a Dutch pothole gardener inspired by Wheen.
None have taken it to the heights (or, since they’re tiny and on the ground, the lows) Wheen has. He grew up in Canberra, ATC (Australian Capital Territory), and makes his home in London. He’s one of the creative young innovators who make me glad our times on the planet have overlapped a bit.
His work spans a lot of media so perhaps it isn’t fair to pick out one, but I can’t help it. I love his pothole gardens. They are miniature worlds. On his tumblr page you can see tiny gardens that include such things as a clothesline, a reading chair, a knitter’s basket, and a telephone booth. They invite passersby to stop, smile, and walk on with a lighter heart.
In November 2012 he launched a book about his tiny oases, The Little Book of Little Gardens. May he sell a million copies.
I confess I smiled the whole time I was watching the videos, checking links, and writing this post. These pothole gardens are joyous whimsy. They give me hope.
More places you can find Steve Wheen’s work: